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Issue 473 -- 19th - 25th February 2011
Protests In 5 Countries As Unrest Spreads Across The Arab World
Manama, Bahrain, February 19, 2011 – A summary of Friday's developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.
Soldiers open fire as thousands stream toward the landmark square at the centre of anti-government protests that erupted earlier this week. Hospital officials say at least 50 people are injured, some with gunshot wounds. The White House expresses "strong displeasure" about the rising tensions in Bahrain, a key U.S. ally in the Gulf.
The protesters want the ruling Sunni Muslim monarchy to give up its control over top government posts and all critical decisions. Shiite Muslims make up 70 per cent of Bahrain's 500,000 citizens but say they face systematic discrimination and poverty and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.
A website linked to a son of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi says the national congress has halted its session indefinitely and will take steps to reform the government when it reconvenes. In the city of Benghazi, protesters set fire to government buildings and police stations. The Gadhafi-linked website says about 1,000 inmates at Benghazi prison attack guards and escape. Three of the inmates are killed in the violence. In Beyida, witnesses say protesters have forced out government security forces and demolished a military air base runway.
Dozens of demonstrators have been killed since protests erupted earlier in the week.
Libya is oil-rich, but an estimated one-third of its people live in poverty. The protesters demand the resignation of Gadhafi, who has ruled for more than 40 years. Gadhafi has met with tribal leaders and taken other steps to try to defuse public anger.
Anti-government demonstrators clash with supporters of Yemen's longtime ruler and riot police in the capital of Sanaa during the ninth straight day of protests. In the city of Taiz, what appears to be a hand grenade is thrown at a group of protesters, seriously wounding at least 48 people in the blast and the stampede that follows. Protesters set cars, a local government building and a police warehouse ablaze in the port city of Aden and three demonstrators are killed.
Protesters demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a U.S. ally, who has ruled the Arab world's poorest nation for 32 years. The demonstrators' main grievances are poverty and official corruption. Saleh's promises not to run for re-election in 2013 or to set up his son as an heir have failed to quell the anger.
Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Egyptians pack into Cairo's central Tahrir Square in the first major rally since the fall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak a week ago. They celebrate his ouster and press Egypt's new military rulers to uproot the rest of his regime and steer the country toward reform. Organizers say they want the military to take greater action against ex-Mubarak regime figures who still hold considerable power.
The country's new military rulers say they need to be able to ensure security in order to move ahead with reforms.
Clashes erupt in the capital, Amman, between about 200 government supporters and about 2,000 protesters. Eight people are injured in the first violence in nearly two months of weekly protests. Demonstrators say they were attacked with batons, stones and pipes.
Protesters seek a constitutional monarchy in which the prime minister is elected. Currently, parliament is elected, but King Abdullah II rules by decree and retains the power to appoint and dismiss prime ministers and to dissolve parliament.
Demonstrators also protest against rising prices and high unemployment.
A new party in Saudi Arabia says authorities detained its founding members earlier this week and told them they must withdraw demands for political reform as a condition for their release. The Umma Islamic Party says the detainees refused to sign the pledge.
Political activity in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which follows strict Islamic rule, is severely restricted and all power rests in the hands of the ruling family. The Umma Islamic Party wants the kingdom's rulers to start a dialogue on reform, including improving the status of women.
Thousands of demonstrators rally in this tiny East African nation to demand that President Ismail Omar Guelleh step down after two terms. Guelleh has served two terms and faces an election in April, but critics lament changes he made to the constitution last year that scrubbed a two-term limit. Guelleh's family has been in power for more than three decades.
Djibouti is a city-state of 750,000 people that lies across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. It hosts several military bases, including the only U.S. base in Africa. Guelleh, who looks poised to win re-election, didn't face any opponents in 2005. One potential challenger this year, Abdourahman Boreh, is supporting anti-Guelleh demonstrations but lives overseas and is currently in London.
By The Associated Press (CP)